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Modern Living

Unwinding is a religion

ARTMAGEDDON - Igan D’Bayan - The Philippine Star

I’ve always wanted to say this: let’s meet up at the bar beside that big brown Buddha and drink a Heart of Darkness.

That sounds almost contemporary noir-ish, smacks of a Tom Robbins character nursing a vodka drink spiked with cinnamon syrup and sparkling lemonade, while contemplating a strange turn of events. Languid electronica and thoughts of Colonel Kurtz mushrooming all around. The Buddha-Bar Paris restaurant-bar-lounge, built in the late ’90s at the Faubourg St. Honoré in that lyrical French city, has that ambience, sets that mood up with its “neo-Asian décor fusing with classic French design” as well as quirky cocktails and exotic cuisine.

“Buddha-Bar, which was created in ’96, has been a precursor to the ‘Art of Living’ concept,” explains Vicente Rodrigo, Buddha-Bar Manila’s new head of operations. Rodrigo adds that the founder, Raymond Visan, owns the famous Barfly in Paris and got the epiphany of putting up a new bar in France after a trip to California. The idea was to take bar habitués on a sort of trip around the world via global cuisine and otherworldly interiors.

The place boasts an interior monologue of wrought-iron balustrades, amber lights, mahogany furniture, opulent reds and golds, décor from China, Japan, Cambodia and Portugal. It’s like a totally whole new country in there.

Rodrigo says about this particular Buddha-Bar in Picar Place along Kalayaan Ave., Makati: “It’s not just a bar, it’s not just a restaurant — it’s a lifestyle. We like to make people feel welcome, relaxed.”

Buddha-Bar, by the way, has its own line of everything from spas and hotels, from CDs (with its very own label) to beauty products. But for now, we’ll focus on fine dining and equally fine drinking.

Talking about the fusion of cuisines in Buddha-Bar is like being in an airport and reading aloud countries of origin and destination.

 

 

“Our menu features a fusion of Thai, Indian, Chinese, Japanese, Hawaiian, Californian, and Filipino,” explains Rodrigo. “Our wine list varies from New World to Old World wines. As for cocktails, we don’t have your typical ones. We like to mix it up a little.”

Soc Santos had been trained in the Paris HQ and has been with Buddha-Bar Manila since it opened in 2012. She explains, “When we opened three and a half years ago, it was 80 percent Buddha-Bar (Paris) and 20 percent Manila. Now, it’s 40 percent Buddha-Bar (Paris) and 60 percent Manila.”  

The chef, who was stationed most recently in Buddha-Bar Moscow, says, “We’re a global brand and the chefs move around the different branches worldwide — that’s how we share our dishes.” 

One look at the new menu and you’d think you’re dining on postmodern book titles. Here is a plate of Crunchy Rainbow (four kinds of fish in one colorful maki roll), a bowl of Forbidden Rice, a piece of Angry Chicken (served with spicy yogurt sauce), to be washed down with a glass of The Ultimate or mixed maraschino liquor garnished with dehydrated pineapples.

You’d almost wish you were Tom Robbins and it’s Sushi Disco Night at Buddha-Bar all over again.

* * *

Buddha-Bar Manila, a franchise of Buddha-Bar Paris, is at Picar Place, Kalayaan Ave., Makati City. For reservations, call 856-6859, 856-6719 and 0998-9833918, email [email protected] or follow Buddha-Bar Manila on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram at @BuddhaBarMNL.

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